The Future of Physical Therapy

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When Jeff Verhoef, PT, MBA first joined Tidewater Physical Therapy (TPTI) in 1995 as its Chief Executive Officer, the independently owned practice had five offices and 40 employees.

They were busy, Verhoef said, and trying to figure out where to go to next. Literally.

Why? Knowing that patients can heal better and faster when they can get into a physical therapy clinic in a place that’s convenient and at a time that works around their schedule is a key part of TPTI’s dedication to clinical excellence and the core of its belief in access.

“Access is absolutely a driver for us,” said Verhoef in reflecting on the future of physical therapy, its role and challenges amid the current state of health care. “It drives what we do. It did then and it does now. Therapists have a unique set of skills from a preventative medicine standpoint. We can cut down health care costs if it’s used appropriately.”

Verhoef joined TPTI in 1995 as its CEO and became a partner – alongside President Wayne MacMasters, PT, and Vice Presidents John Mitrovic, PT, SCS, ATC, CSCS and Steve Howell, PT, ATC – in 1998.

Verhoef is part clinician, part businessman with both a Certificate of Physical Therapy, which he earned from the University of Iowa, and a Masters in Business Administration from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

A native of Iowa, Verhoef grew up around physical therapy. His father owned a small practice there. He saw early on the power of healing in a physical therapy clinic.

“Research shows that the sooner we can involve a patient in an active, dynamic physical therapy program – get them access to therapy – the better chance they have for successful outcomes,” Verhoef said.

For TPTI, access starts by having clinics geographically located where patients can get to a clinic close to their home and work. TPTI now operates more than 30 clinics, two Performance Centers and four aquatic therapy programs spread from Virginia Beach to Richmond. They operate in urban regions and rural outskirts, along medical corridors and in shopping districts, near key neighborhoods and close to major highways.

Clinicians start treating patients early, throughout the lunch hour and into the evenings.

“And we’re providers for every major insurance company except one,” Verhoef said.

That’s where the challenge of physical therapy today and into the future comes in.

“The gate is open,” Verhoef said. “It’s just that people aren’t allowed to go through.”

That’s despite that physical therapy, Verhoef said, “is an extremely cost effective treatment for musculoskeletal disorders, which is well documented in clinical literature, especially when it’s combined with hands on care.”

“Physical therapists, if we are doing our job, take patients beyond rehabilitation to prevention of further injury,” Verhoef said. “What’s become difficult is that there is currently so much focus on doing less – less visits, less care because it costs less now.”

A few extra sessions with a physical therapist today could mean avoiding another injury and more costly medical procedures tomorrow.

As for the future of physical therapists, it looks bright, Verhoef said.

“The new PTs come in with some very strong diagnostic skills and in many cases with a very good understanding of fitness, health and preventative measures,” Verhoef said. “When they incorporate that into their treatment plans it is a huge benefit to the patient.”